Axiom hired a new CEO from Gartner. Deloitte launched its Legal Business Services offering. UnitedLex hired a Chief Digital and Transformation Officer from Genpact. These moves were announced within a ten-day period. The concurrence of the announcements might be coincidental but the reasons behind them are anything but. Big money is betting heavily on business and tech-trained leadership to guide legal service providers into the digital age.
Differentiated legal expertise remains an essential legal delivery ingredient, but it must be accompanied by customer-focus, cross-industry leadership with business, tech, and customer-facing expertise at scale, and capital. Lawyers are no longer the presumptive choice or necessarily the best-qualified to lead legal service providers. Lawyers may be shocked by this but big business and private equity are not.
Permira and CVC are two among a growing number of private equity stalwarts that have made significant investments in new-model legal service providers. Their capital has enabled hires of elite, cross-industry talent; development of technology platforms that benefit customers, promote internal efficiency, and enable scale; strategic acquisitions; and a long-term strategy.
Private equity knows how to grow businesses, and its preference for senior leadership with strong business, technological and customer-service backgrounds to lead their legal portfolio companies is telling. It is a reminder that law is no longer solely about lawyers and that senior management of elite legal service providers will increasingly include professionals with skillsets, mindsets, experience, and performance metrics different than lawyers. This shift underscores the distinction between legal practice and the business of running a global legal services organization.
A closer look at recent moves by Axiom, Deloitte, and UnitedLex sheds light on legal delivery’s future and the qualifications of those that will help to shape it.
Axiom Doubles Down On Customer-Centric Business, Financial, And Tech Leadership
Axiom, a preeminent, pioneering legal talent company, recently announced that David McVeigh will assume the role of CEO, effective immediately. McVeigh, a chemical engineer by training, has had high-level stints in consulting, private equity, technology, and customer-facing sales roles. He came to Axiom from Gartner where he was a member of the company’s operating committee and, as EVP of Global Business Sales, led a $650 million global sales organization of subscription-based research and advisory services. McVeigh had previously served as a managing director at private equity firm Hellman & Friedman, an operating partner at The Blackstone Group, and a partner at McKinsey & Company.
Permira Principal and Axiom Board Member Daniel Brenhouse said, “David’s background – especially his strategic vision, relentless focus on clients, and his deep understanding of the integration of human capital and technology resources — is an ideal fit for Axiom, its clients, legal talent, and the industry.”
McVeigh takes over the reins from Elena Donio who will remain on Axiom’s Board. He inherits a company that boasts 2,400+ highly-vetted lawyers and that counts half of the Fortune 100 as clients. McVeigh intends to build on Axiom’s brand, Board, and business.
“My vision is to make Axiom into an enterprise legal marketplace where customers can seamlessly engage high caliber lawyers, finding the most appropriate and diverse legal talent to match their needs in terms of skillset, experience, and commercial acumen. Our significant investment in technology, including our Axiom for Talent lawyer platform, will enable that vision to become a reality soon. But it’s not just the technology that will enable that new reality – it’s the evolving industry perspective. The Covid economy has removed the on-site bias from legal, meaning clients can focus on finding the right talent, not just the ‘right here’ talent.”
McVeigh also intends to focus on Axiom’s clients in a way that’s new to law, utilizing net promoter scores (NPS) and other measures of client satisfaction.
“We are going to bake that customer-centricity into the marketplace model, making performance feedback from client engagements a big portion of legal talent profiles to better enable the lawyer selection and mapping process for clients. It’s a win not only for clients but also for our lawyers who will benefit from well-matched, productive, and challenging engagements.”
Axiom is well-positioned for the fluid, multidisciplinary, agile demands of the digital world. Those qualities are baked into its DNA. The company has challenged traditional legal service paradigms since its launch 20 years ago. Its flexible work model, flat organizational structure, and collaborative culture remain a magnet for top-tier, experienced legal talent seeking a sophisticated practice alternative to the hierarchical rigidity of traditional partnership model firms. Its embrace of outside capital enables the company to have longer-term vision and make meaningful investments in technology that enable the creation of a digital marketplace. Axiom’s model has produced organic diversity, low-turnover, customer-centricity, and sustained growth. Its flexibility, investment in its workforce’s ongoing professional training, and work-life balance are well-suited to the post-Covid world.
Deloitte Ups Its Investment In The Business Of Law
Deloitte, the world’s largest professional services firm, announced the launch of its Legal Business Services (LBS) practice in the US. LBS is a comprehensive, end-to-end suite of legal management consulting and tech-enabled managed services tailored to corporate legal departments. LBS will work closely with and leverage Deloitte’s Chief Legal Officers (CLO) Program, providing clients solutions to a wide range of operational challenges at scale and freeing up leadership to exact increased value to the enterprise from the legal function.
Deloitte is infusing significant, self-funded capital—enabled by its $50B annual revenue and reinvestment strategy—to make key strategic hires and acquisitions that broaden and deepen its existing legal service ranks. Deloitte is drawing from its vast internal network—312,000 employees worldwide— of multidisciplinary talent, infrastructure, and client relationships to augment its LBS offering.
LBS leverages Deloitte’s vast technology, change management, business, process/project management, and organizational structure capabilities to expand and accelerate the business of delivering managed legal services at scale. Deloitte’s powerful brand, massive global footprint, multidisciplinary depth and breadth, 175-year history of business problem-solving, deep war chest, and C-Suite ties position it as a formidable player in the US and global legal marketplace. While the Deloitte US firms do not engage in the practice of law, outside of the US Deloitte is one of the world’s largest legal services providers, and its LBS practice will complement those offerings.
The LBS practice is led by Dan Lange and Don Fancher. Both have C-level experience running massive global service organizations under the Deloitte banner. Lange formerly headed Deloitte’s Global Tax and Legal Business, a $9B operation, and also served on Deloitte’s US Board. Fancher is the Global Leader of Deloitte Forensic with a workforce of 4,500. Their collective domain and managerial expertise, coupled with an ability to navigate and draw talent from Deloitte’s vast internal resources will be enormous assets for LBS.
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Lange summarizes the case for LBS and Deloitte’s investment in it:
“While there will always remain a role for expert, trusted, legal advisors, our clients need the benefits of a full-scale business of law solution provider that can leverage multidisciplinary capabilities, a global delivery platform, technological leadership, and deep experience in transformation and change management. To meet this market need, we will continue to invest to expand our substantial existing talent, delivery model, and technological capabilities.”
Deloitte has already expanded its talent base by the addition of several seasoned legal business hands. Mark Ross, who joined LBS from Integreon where he was the EVP and Global Head of Contracts, Compliance, and Commercial Services, is a notable example. Ross explained, “Through automation, process reengineering, and managed services, we will expand the definition of alternative legal services into a more comprehensive, transformative suite of offerings that support legal leaders, enabling them to partner with business to drive increased value.”
UnitedLex Expands Its Digital Transformation Leadership
UnitedLex, a technology and legal services company committed to delivering full-scale Digital Legal Transformation, announced that David Edelheit will serve as its Chief Digital and Transformation Officer. Edelheit will play a leading role in setting the vision and strategy for UnitedLex’s digital ecosystem—affecting every relevant operational, delivery, technology, and solutions aspect of the 3,000 strong global organization.
Edelheit has a stellar business, technology, and customer-facing background forged during leadership roles at leading global companies. Most recently, he was the global business leader of Genpact’s Transformation Services business where he created and led strategy for digital and analytics, customer experience, and industry advisory services that enabled the digital transformation of the firm’s top-tier clients. His leadership ultimately led to a refinement of what the firm sold, how it went to market, and how services were delivered.
Edelheit was previously COO of PwC’s global advisory business where he led the transformation of its sales and delivery model. This complex transformation resulted in the development of new firm offerings and services, new delivery structures that impacted legal, tax, and mobility challenges, as well as automation and AI efficiencies. Edelheit leveraged an agile methodology for this multifaceted transformation with sprint results that generated over a billion dollars in sales.
Siddharth Patel, Senior Managing Director of CVC Capital Partners and a UnitedLex Board Member, provided insight to CVC’s investment in UnitedLex as well as the importance of the Edelheit hire.
“UnitedLex has pioneered the Digital platform for legal. No other company has mastered the regulatory, technology, and solution designs essential to addressing the needs of the world’s leading law departments. Dave is an executive that brings a level of impact to the advancement of Digital that is unique within the legal industry.”
UnitedLex CEO Dan Reed, who with DXC General Counsel Bill Deckelman partnered on a groundbreaking digital transformation of DXC’s legal department that began in 2017, said that Edelheit will accelerate and expand UnitedLex’s digital legal leadership. “Dave possesses extremely high Digital IQ and EQ. The best companies demand not just great results but great experiences. Dave’s mastery of both, when applied to legal, will usher in a new era of transformation.”
Edelheit views the legal function through a business lens. He noted, “Business expects the legal function to align with it and to produce enterprise value. That’s what drew me to the legal industry and to UnitedLex, a company that is making that happen at scale.”
Concurrent with his role as UnitedLex Chief Digital and Transformation, Edelheit will serve as a Workshop Coach to The Digital Legal Exchange (DLEX). DLEX is a unique not-for-profit global institute and digital thought leadership repository whose faculty and senior management are leading thinkers and doers from academia, business, government, technology and law. DLEX’s mission is to accelerate digital transformation of the legal function to drive commercial value. Its membership includes many of the world’s largest companies.
Legal delivery’s essentials now include: customer focus, Digital expertise, capital, scale, technology platforms, multidisciplinary talent, and senior talent/leadership drawn from other industries. Covid-19 will turbocharge the speed and complexity of business and widen law’s digital gap. This, in turn, will compress the timeframe for reconfiguration of the legal function to align it with business and to transform legal from budget drag to proactive enterprise defender and enterprise value creator. Legal providers that recognize and respond to this are poised for rapid growth.